Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fully Awesome 'Bolt' Strikes Early on Blu-ray

BOLT (2008)
Starring the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Mark Walton and Susie Essman
Directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Rated PG for some mild action and peril

Disney got a jump on the traditional DVD-release day by putting the Blu-ray version of "Bolt" on the shelves Sunday. The standard DVD version (like most new releases) will be in stores on Tuesday.

Bolt (John Travolta) is a real-live dog starring in a not-so-real hit television series, where he battles bad guys and takes on the supremely evil "green-eyed man" Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell). There's just one problem, Bolt thinks it is real, all the way down to the super-powers his screen persona possesses. When he's suddenly forced to take a cross-country trek in the real world to find his "lost person" Penny (Miley Cyrus), Bolt has to come to grips with who he really is and discover what it takes to be a real hero.

First-time directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard have crafted a highly entertaining and visually beautiful film from the Walt Disney Studios that holds its own against anything put out by their upstate counterpart Pixar--give executive producer John Lasseter a fair share of the credit for that. In turns exciting, funny and heartwarming, "Bolt" combines the best in action-adventure and buddy-film movie making. Call it "The Incredibles Journey."

Travolta and Cyrus do solid voice work in their roles, but the movie belongs to the supporting cast, particularly Essman ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") as Bolt's sassy feline traveling companion Mittens and James Lipton ("Inside the Actors Studio") as the overly-dramatic (could he play it any other way?) television director. Stealing the movie, though, is story artist cum voice talent Mark Walton as the fearless, hyperactive, Bolt-worshipping hamster Rhino. Earnest and just a bit crazed, Rhino is the type of diminutive hero who, when he says, "I eat danger for breakfast," you believe him. Small wonder Rhino got his own short cartoon included in the bonus features. "Super Rhino" is a clever hoot that isn't afraid to poke fun at its source movie material and Disney franchise Cyrus at the same time.

"Lilo & Stitch" Returns to DVD in a 2-Disc Set

Early in this decade, when Disney 2D animation was taking a nose dive (see "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," "Treasure Planet," et. al.), the mouse house peeled off one last bona fide hit in the Eisner era, a quirky tale of a space alien who crash lands in Hawaii and finds out that "ohana" and Elvis Presley are pretty cool alternatives to blowing stuff up. "Lilo & Stitch" is a subversive charmer with two cuddly (and just a bit dangerous) misfits as the lead characters. It's silly and entertaining with plenty of warm fuzzies thrown in for good measure. The "2-Disc Big Wave Edition" goes on sale tomorrow.

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